We normally hear about predatory journals/publishers, which accept articles for publication without performing the required quality checks. And they collect hefty author fees, in the process. These are generally considered as a global threat. While many institutions have put in place measures to counter this evil, many unsuspecting authors are still falling prey to it.

On the other hand, there are those shrewd researchers, who deliberately submit their articles for publication to these predatory publishers for purposes of deceiving their employers. These are what I call predatory researchers! They know almost all the lists of predatory journals in their field. They usually go for those unlisted predatory journals. This is, however, not their only characteristic.

As institutions continue to push their employees to publish in journals with high impact factors, the plot has really thickened. The tactics of predatory researchers have greatly evolved. I will discuss some of these tactics as follows:

  • Predatory researchers have too much hunger for publications. They endeavour to publish even in areas that are irrelevant to their fields of interest. They do not care about their research profile. They will want their name to be included in the list of the authors even when their contribution is negligible. When their name is left out, they can even sue the genuine authors.
  • Predatory researchers are addicted to unnecessary self-citation. They do this in order to increase their h-index, which to them is the best metric for determining the quality of a researcher. It is for the same reason that they go into so many meaningless co-authorships. Pick one of their papers and ask them about their input in the work, you will be shocked.
  • Predatory researchers are very obsessed by h-index. They have high h-index, yet shallow on other key performance metrics such attraction and retention of research grants, and creation of startups as offshoots of research. When they have attracted funding, it is always because they are benefiting from the efforts of others in a team.
  • Predatory researchers are good talkers. They know how to make a good first impression on possible research collaborators. They are very good at using their networks to gain more papers.
  • Predatory researchers do not have a proper research focus. Their publications are all over the place. They float around based on the ongoing buzzwords. For instance, many of them are embracing Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), which is the biggest buzzword in my field here in South Africa right now, without really going deeper in the study of the concepts upon which 4IR is underpinned. Sooner or later, they will jump on something else. They have completely forgotten that a rolling stone gathers no moss.
  • Predatory researchers offer very poor mentorship to upcoming researchers. They cannot give what they do not have. They have poor research skills and it is impossible for them to impart anything to their juniors.
  • Predatory researchers like to use promising researchers as publishing machines. When they spot young bright researchers, all that they do is to make sure that they should squeeze as much publications as possible from poor lad, while not even caring for his socio-economic status. If sometimes, they help the lad with some opportunity, it is usually that case of putting him in a better position so that he can produce more publications for them.

Many institutions do not have proper policies in place to deter the efforts of predatory researchers. Some of them are infested by predatory researchers even in the highest levels of management such that it is extremely difficult for the very same people to solve this problem. It is the honest researchers that are suffering.

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